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EXCLUSIVE: Woman speaks out after Vernon change room accusation

Transgender woman in Vernon accused of exposing teens to male genitalia in a public change room
Amanda Wilson is a transgender woman in Vernon who was publicly accused of having male genitals after being seen in a public changeroom. She does not have male anatomy and despite her efforts, is acutely aware of the fact that she appears masculine. (Amanda Wilson/Submitted) Amanda Wilson is a transgender woman in Vernon was publicly accused of having male genitals after being seen in a public changeroom. She does not have male anatomy and despite accessing gender affirming care, is acutely aware of the fact that she appears masculine. (Amanda Wilson/Submitted)

Amanda Wilson knows that she appears masculine but, as a 67-year-old transgender woman, she said that there is very little she can do about it.

Wilson is speaking out to quell fears and address the misinformation and transphobia that spread around Vernon after two teenage girls reported that they allegedly saw a person with male genitals using the women’s change room. After speaking with the recreation centre’s management staff and judging by when the allegations were made, Wilson suspects that she is the woman that the teens saw.

READ MORE: Change room complaints spark review of Vernon policies

In an interview with Black Press Media, Wilson said that she does not have male genitalia and did not intend to scare anyone. Further, she said that the two girls likely never even saw her naked. Wilson said that she has female anatomy including breast tissue growth, and underwent gender-affirming genital reconstruction surgery more than a decade ago.

“It’s frustrating that I can’t do anything because I am so masculine. I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable,” she said.

The allegations made by the two girls sparked public uproar that spanned from online forums to a Vernon City Council meeting. Vernon RCMP were unaware of any incident.

Since the allegations were made in early February, Wilson and the transgender community in Vernon have received threats and have been subject to hate speech online, which Black Press Media has obtained.

“I’m afraid of other trans people being victims of violence.”

During the time that she was working out at the Vernon Recreational and Aquatic Centre, Wilson said shes had conversations with management and staff have always been supportive. However, she has since switched to another gym.

In a statement to Black Press Media, Vernon city communications manager Carolyn Baldridge said that the city remains dedicated to providing inclusive spaces for everyone.

“The city is sad to hear that the woman is afraid to return to the aquatic centre,” said Baldridge. “The City of Vernon Recreation Services is committed to the safety of all users.”

Wilson said that from a young age, she knew that she was a woman but did not transition until later in life. She served in the Canadian military for many years before being injured in the line of duty – a career she shares a lot of pride for. Since then, she said that she has endured a lot of pain in order to have female genital anatomy, including reconstruction surgery 13 years ago.

Even though she is legally female, Wilson acknowledges that she has masculine features that she cannot change – she stands 6-foot-two inches tall and weighs 300 pounds.

“The blueprint is there,” Wilson said.

“Unfortunately, when we’re born we don’t get to choose what sex we are. I’m a woman and I’ve always been a woman… I wouldn’t wish anyone to be transgender.”

As a sexual assault survivor, Wilson said she can understand how masculinity can trigger fear in a space as vulnerable as a change room. However, she believes she has just as much right to use the space as any other woman and doesn’t use private rooms.

“It makes me feel like a second-class woman,” Wilson said. “The fact that I’m trans overrides all the other good things that I’ve done.”

Slated to be completed by fall 2026, Vernon’s new Rec Centre is expected to feature universal spaces, including gender-neutral change rooms.

Darrien McWatters, the vice president for Advocacy Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering unity and amplifying the voices of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, said that from her perspective as a transgender woman, inclusive change rooms are incredibly important for people’s safety and comfort.

McWatters said that she has also struggled with navigating safety regarding change rooms before going swimming. Early in her journey of gender affirmation and prior to undergoing surgery, McWatters felt as though she didn’t fit into either change room option at her local swimming pool in Summerland.

“As a trans woman, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself,” McWatters said. “I didn’t feel comfortable in either change room.”

At the time, she spoke with management and a private change room was created. However, McWatters said that people who do not fit societal norms of gender expression should not be forced to take matters into their own hands and have to self-advocate for a safe space to change.

Wilson wants all people to be active and enjoy life, and is hoping gender-neutral change rooms become the standard so all people can live without fear or judgement.

“I don’t need people to accept me with open arms, I just need them to have the courtesy to let me live my life. I’m not asking a lot.”

READ MORE: ‘Students are worth it’: B.C. teachers stand by SOGI amid threats

READ MORE: Gender-affirming care for youth is lifesaving, say B.C. experts

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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